This month marks the 75th anniversary of National Disability Employment Awareness Month. In August the Americans with Disabilities Act, which played a major role in giving people with disabilities access to schools and workplaces, celebrated its 30th anniversary. These milestones, combined with the challenges we’ve faced as COVID threatens many of our businesses and livelihoods, have thrust disability employment into the spotlight.
I’ll admit it; I used to think that asking for accommodations to perform my job somehow made me less valuable as an employee and as a human. Of course this isn’t true. And I’ve learned that while some see the needs of people with disabilities as an inconvenience for employers, the resilience, adaptability and determination of those with disabilities often far outweigh the negatives. Fortunately, more and more companies are beginning to realize this and are making strides toward a more inclusive environment.
As a graduate assistant in my university’s Center for Career & Professional Development, I’ve become even more aware of the need for inclusion and immunodiversity in the workplace. To help all students and alumni succeed in their job searches and professional development, we have to remember those with disabilities and/or chronic illness. Luckily, there are more and more resources popping up every day for the growing population of job hunters with disabilities. My current favorite is Chronically Capable, a job search platform created by Hannah Olson, a Lyme survivor who was forced to leave her dream job because of intense IV treatments.
Chronically Capable isn’t just a great resource for people seeking more accessible careers; it’s an opportunity for companies to connect with largely overlooked talent. According to their website, companies that employ people with disabilities have 90% higher retention rates and a 72% increase in employee productivity. And it’s no wonder: employers that have partnered with Chronically Capable provide their teams with the tools they need to succeed. Each employer’s profile includes a breakdown of the workplace accommodations they provide, like flexible work and leave schedules, sign language interpreters, accessible restrooms and fragrance-free workplaces. Many companies also offer the option to work remotely.
Another easily-accessible resource for job hunters is abilityjobfair.org. This site provides live online career fairs with a variety of companies on a regular basis. Job seekers can video chat live with employers on this talk/text/ASL-friendly platform. Abilityjobs.com also offers a job board with thousands of postings by companies seeking people with disabilities.
If you have questions about the ADA, disability employment or accommodations, the Employer Assistance and Resource Network on Disability Inclusion (EARN) and the Job Accommodation Network (JAN) are great places to start. JAN even offers an A to Z list of accommodations that you can search by disability, accommodation or work-related function. If you’re not sure how to talk to your supervisor or HR department about accommodations, you can learn how other people with similar limitations have adapted their jobs to fit their needs.
These are just a few of the resources available to job seekers with disabilities. Many colleges and universities also have career and professional development offices or disability and inclusion departments that may be able to help students and alumni in the job search. As more companies realize the benefits of hiring a diverse team and the feasibility of working remotely, more doors may open for people with disabilities. It’s time we start recognizing and appreciating the unique contributions people with disabilities make in their careers every day!
For more great tips on working with a chronic illness or disability, check out this WEGO Health webinar with Ilana Jacqueline and the University of Findlay’s Career Chat with Kara Maruszak.
In this follow-up to my first Q&A with artist Abi Stevens, she shares the story behind some of her new enamel pin designs. Abi funded her first collection of spoonie pins through Kickstarter, and her second campaign is wrapping up now. She also sells her work on Etsy. Read on to find out what Abi’s been up to and learn more about her new creations.
Q: What inspired you to create your newest designs?
Q: How has the pandemic affected you and your art?
A: It's definitely increased my stress levels, and at various points this has made it difficult to engage with creative work. I was lucky in that I didn't lose any scheduled work due to lockdown, and having external deadlines to work to made it easier to keep creating. Finding inspiration and motivation for my personal work has been more difficult though. I've focused on simpler, quicker pieces that are easier to work on when I'm struggling.
I only went full-time freelance with my illustration and online shop late last year so it's been interesting trying to grow a business during such unstable times, especially as my business was too new to qualify me for government assistance!
Q: Can you describe your creative process?
With these pins I already had a style in mind from previous designs, so I looked up various weapons I was interested in including for reference photos, then went straight into Photoshop. My research phase was mostly deciding which conditions I wanted to represent at this stage and discussing the choices and phrases with other Spoonies.
Q: Do you follow a self-care routine?
A: I try to but I have ADHD so I have trouble developing and sticking to routines. A big priority is to make sure I drink enough during the day (which I used to forget to do all the time), so I keep a water bottle at my desk. I have an app on my computer which reminds me to take screen breaks and this helps me remember to eat regularly and get up and stretch too.
When I'm doing better with routines (the lockdown threw my previous self-care routine out the window) I take yoga classes, go to the gym, take hot baths/showers and massage sessions, which help me reduce severe muscle tension which is both caused by and triggers my Migraine attacks. I also do my best to regulate my sleep by going to bed around the same time each night.
My biggest challenges right now are cooking proper meals and sticking to defined work/rest times. I have a habit of letting work bleed into my evenings and weekends.
I still do this sometimes by mistake, especially when I'm very invested in a project, but it really isn't worth it. Applying the standards of a healthy person's full-time office job to working for yourself while chronically ill is a recipe for disaster. I try to remind myself regularly that I don't have to achieve all of my goals all at once; the only timetable I'm following is my own, so I'm free to create one that doesn't compromise my physical and mental health.
If you want to share your talents and experience too, then go for it! Please be as honest as you're comfortable being, because I think it's important not to accidentally play into the erasure of our struggles, but the more of us out there sharing our stories and our creations, the more we can fight back against ableism and combat misconceptions.
With protests and demonstrations taking place around the country, there’s no shortage of opportunities to get involved in the Black Lives Matter movement. I was even able to participate in a peaceful protest in my small town, and many surrounding towns have held their own events in recent weeks. Unfortunately, these events aren’t always accessible to people with chronic illness or disability – not to mention the risk of spreading coronavirus, which is still a major concern throughout the US. But that doesn’t mean you can’t support the movement from home. Here are five ways you can get involved and show your support without setting foot outside the house:
3. Support businesses that support the movement.
Many organizations have stepped up to help and are donating a portion of their profits to the cause. You can also support local black-owned businesses in your area.
Educate yourself by reading a book by a black author, like Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson, or watch a movie or documentary about black history. Netflix’s 13th is a great place to start!
How are you advocating for justice while social distancing? Tell me in the comments!
COVID-19 has us all paying a little more attention to the air we breathe, especially when that air is being filtered through a mask. Many of us are also spending more time confined to our homes, although I’ve noticed more and more people out and about in search of fresh air, sunshine and their sanity. I’ll admit, until recently, I never gave much thought to the quality of the air in my house. But as a new homeowner, I’ve learned this is a mistake.
Whether you have a respiratory illness or not, air quality should be a priority. Just as the food we eat and the fluids we drink have an enormous effect on the way our bodies feel and function, the air we breathe can either help or harm us. Luckily, I have some great clients who have helped me gain a better understanding of my new home’s air quality. Here are a few things I’ve learned about airflow, radon, mold and HVAC systems that you might find useful.
Variables like wind direction and window placement will affect the airflow in your home. But that doesn’t mean that it’s out of your control. Casement windows and even shrubs can be placed strategically to create pressure zones and help direct airflow. The size and location of air inlets and outlets will also affect the flow and temperature of your indoor air. Since hot air rises, inlets should be as low as possible with outlets as high as possible. In most cases, the size of inlets and outlets should be equal. If you notice issues with airflow or temperature control, an expert can evaluate your home and recommend strategies that fit your budget.
In addition to a basic home inspection, I chose to have the radon levels in my home checked before closing. After writing this blog post for a client, it seemed like a no-brainer, especially since I live in a part of the country that’s notorious for high radon levels. Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer (after cigarette smoke), and the EPA estimates that radon leads to more deaths each year than drunk driving. If you smoke or live with someone who does, your risk of developing lung cancer is even higher. The cost of mitigation varies, but it’s often comparable to other common home repairs, and the peace of mind that comes with it is priceless.
Mold and Humidity
Heating and Cooling
Luckily, another client of mine offers professional air duct cleaning. Since my home had previously been rented to a family with small children and not maintained properly, having my ducts cleaned seemed like a wise decision. And when I saw the results, I realized it was worth every penny! Along with bags of dust and grime, my ducts produced crayons, toy cars, paper towel rolls, loose change, Mardi Gras beads and homework (among other junk). After having my ducts cleaned, I learned that contaminants in your air ducts can make your heating and cooling system less effective. In fact, 25-40% of the energy used for heating and cooling a home is wasted. You can improve the air you breathe as well as the efficiency of your HVAC system with professional air duct cleaning.
Yes, Plants Really Can Help
You’ve probably heard that plants can help to filter the carbon dioxide in the air, and that’s true. But they can do a lot more than that. Phytoremediation – the removal of environmental toxins by plants – can help to reduce respiratory symptoms and stress while increasing work performance. One study conducted by NASA suggests that air quality can be improved by incorporating 15-18 houseplants in an 1,800-square-foot home. Just keep in mind that plants can contribute to moisture in the air, so be conscious of the humidity levels in your house.
What have you done to improve the air quality in your home? Tell me in the comments!
Today (Tuesday, May 12) is Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (M.E.) Awareness Day. While it’s been observed each year since 1993, it takes on new meaning in the age of Covid-19. As retail stores in my home state reopen and many people resume some semblance of their normal routines, the threat of M.E. has never been greater. On one hand, the survival rate of coronavirus patients is higher than some original estimates. On the other hand, those who have recovered face an increased risk of complications like M.E. and other post-viral fatigue syndromes.
Recent studies suggest that as many as 10% of people who recover from the coronavirus could develop M.E. in the coming months. Yet funding for research to find a cure is almost nonexistent. Raising awareness and advocating for the millions of people who are affected by this debilitating disease is needed now more than ever. To find out how you can help to make a difference, visit the M.E. Action Network. And for those who are social distancing, here are four things you can do in the safety of your own home to learn more about M.E. and help raise awareness.
1. Download this Incurable #MillionsMissing Facebook cover photo.
2. Watch Unrest on Netflix.
The Sundance award-winning documentary tells the stories of M.E. patients and their families.
3. Read A Girl Behind Dark Glasses by Jessica Taylor-Bearman.
The author shares her diary chronicling her teenage years with M.E. She was able to capture her thoughts with voice-activated technology when she was living in the hospital and unable to write.
4. Explore Inner Landscapes by Christina Baltais
Artist Christina Baltais has created the Inner Landscapes collage series to bring visibility to the lives of people with M.E.